Portugal is famous for being the home of Port wine, but of late there has been a massive increase in demand from craft distilleries to get hold of the used wooden barrels that the Port wine is aged in, because of the sweet fruity flavour that they can add to a whisky. Getting hold of these used barrels can be a bit of a struggle as they are only released from the Port wine cellars periodically when they need replacing, but it is possible to buy used port wine barrels from a cooperage that refurbishes them ready for another life.
In fact the life of a wooden barrel is an interesting one – they are first used to age wine in, where many of the tannins are absorbed; then when they no longer have sufficient tannins to flavour the wine, they can be used for Port wine where the stronger woody flavours are not so desirable; then the same barrels can be used to add finishing notes for whiskies and other distilled spirits, where an interesting extra flavour is required to add another layer of interest. After they have finally served their purpose at the distillery, the barrels can finally be retired to make decorative wooden barrels for flower pots and so on, until finally they fall apart and can be burnt to give a sweet smelling fire in someone’s living room.
You can find out more about used Port wine barrels at the www.lusobarrel.com site.